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Why Learning a Language from Music is Easier

What is the 17th letter of the alphabet? Are you singing the alphabet song to find the answer? It’s “q.” Have you ever wondered why you can recite all the lyrics to an Adele or Cold Play song but can’t remember the equation for the circumference of a circle or the Spanish word for printer? When listening to music, following the lyrics and melody/rhythm requires both sides of our brains to be active, making it easier to remember information that’s simply read.  That’s why you often have lines from songs stuck in your head, but you don’t find the same thing with passages from books. Musically-inclined people are often better at learning languages, and this may be why we here at Voxy LOVE music.

When trying to learn or memorize information, it is often helpful to make a song or a chant out of it. “Thirty days hath September, April, June and November….” This chant is recited to remember how many days there are in each month.  Information is easier to remember through songs than rote memorization using flash cards or reading text. The melodies of songs are catchy, and rhyming lyrics facilitate recall, making music a great learning tool.

In his review of the research on learning language through music, Jon Weatherford Stansell points out that a very difficult task when listening to a new language is identifying words. Adding notes and pitch to sounds makes this task easier. Learning a new language? You should start by listening to a song; you will get a better sense of words and pronunciation. In addition to all these fabulous benefits, music is excellent to help you remember and recall information (you sang the alphabet to identify where Q was in the alphabet). Add to that increased motivation and improved mood, and you have a winning language learning tactic. When using music to learn, you can use your listening, speaking, (and, if you follow along with the lyrics) your reading skills.

Jessica T-Skeete
Jessica is a User Experience Associate at Voxy, and recently graduated Teachers College Columbia University. With a Masters of Arts in Instructional Technology and Media, she is a mobile learning enthusiast, and passionate about designing mobile learning experiences. A native from Quebec, she is no stranger to learning multiple languages at the the same time.